Wednesday, July 6, 2016

What We Now Know After Two Years of Teacher Leadership at Hudson

As part of the Iowa Department of Education's measurement on the effectiveness of teacher leadership systems, Hudson schools participated in a research and support survey conducted by the American Institute for Research (AIR). All Hudson faculty and administration were encouraged to participate in the study and with an 80.4% response rate, our results are statistically significant. With this being the first year of the survey, the results after next year will be even more important for comparability purposes. 

If you are interested in reading the entire report, it can be accessed right here. For the purposes of today's article, I am just going to highlight and discuss a few of the findings. Of those completing the survey, 97.5% indicated that they participated in the district's professional development offerings this school year. 

Perhaps most encouraging was that 77.8% of teachers either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement 'professional development enhanced my ability to improve student learning'. On the other hand, 69.4% of respondents agreed that professional development enhanced instructional practice. What becomes interesting is taking that professional development and putting it into practice. 71.9% of respondents indicated that instructional practices have improved, 72.7% state they think they are a better teacher, and 69.3% believe student achievement has improved at our school.

What this snapshot suggests is that the majority of our teaching staff believes in and can see the value in our teacher leadership system. What it also tells us is that we still have our work cut out for us! For example, 37.1% of respondents indicated that professional development experiences were not useful and consistent this year. 

However, there must be no doubt that professional development has become much more rigorous, scripted, and regimented with the advent of our teacher leadership system. This last year our elementary teachers were engaged in professional development that focused on research based instructional strategies useful for teaching fractions and strategies using 'number talks' for problem solving. We have empirical data that does indeed show improvement in these areas. We also began to bring clarity to the implementation of our literacy program 'Wonders' by using the book 'Super Core' in a book study with elementary faculty. Both of these efforts were led by our teacher leaders. Collaboration, critique, and peer feedback among teachers in grades 7-12 improved to a whole new level this year when Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW) became a mainstay model of instructional improvement. With this work, we see teachers coming together to improve upon each other's instruction in ways that have never been done before. And of course we all know that technology has been an anchor in our district the last several years as we work hard to embed 21st century learning into our students' educational experience.

In spite of this rich and diverse menu of professional development offerings, it is clear that there is room for improvement. While 70-80% is respectable, wouldn't it be wonderful if 100% of our teachers responded in the affirmative to this inquiry? Perhaps that is Utopian thinking, yet I still think achievable! 

Beginning in 2016-2017, Hudson will be entering its third year implementing teacher leadership. Indeed, each year our system grows and becomes better. For the first time this year our system will have all teacher leadership positions filled, meaning that almost 35% of teachers in our district will have a teacher leadership role with real responsibilities. To put that number in perspective, 25% of teachers were involved in teacher leadership during this last year. We are also planning to increase three-fold the number of coaching lab opportunities that our teachers can participate in this year. You might remember that coaching labs were first introduced into our system before spring break, and are a great way for model teachers to demonstrate promising new instructional strategies for practitioners and help scale them up throughout the attendance center. 

As we prepare to begin our third year of teacher leadership at Hudson schools I am excited about the future! While we have room for improvement, there is no doubt that what we are doing is working! With our system at full strength and a commitment to our district initiatives and collaboration, it seems that nothing is impossible!

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